DOJ blasts school district's response
by Chance Wright
Oct 30, 2012 | 4118 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
On Friday the U.S. Department of Justice filed its response to arguments made by the Cleveland School District in the school desegregation case that has been ongoing for nearly 50 years.

The response was filed in the court of Senior Judge Glen Davidson of the U.S. District Court for Northern Mississippi.

According to the DOJ's argument filed on Friday, "the District relies on a supplemental report by a nonlawyer expert, Dr. Christine Rossell, that is not grounded in the particular facts of this case and repeats what Dr. Rossell has already submitted to the court."

In the school district's response, filed with court on Oct. 3, Dr. Christine Rossell's expert opinion was sought to combat U.S. arguments filed in August that the district proposed plan to introduce "magnet" programs at both East Side High School and D.M. Smith Middle School to help attract white students from Cleveland High School and Margaret Green Jr. High was an unacceptable solution to the segregation problem.

Rossell is a professor of political science at Boston University and author of numerous books including "School Desegregation in the 21st Century," "Bilingual Education in Massachusetts" and "The Carrot and the Stick for School Desegregation.

Prior to her Oct. 3 report, Rossell had filled other documents with the court in this case on two separate occasions.

"The Cleveland School District abandons any pretense of defending the legality of its proposed plan to integrate East Side High School and D.M. Smith Middle School," said Felicia Adams, United States Attorney.

Adams added that the argument, or report, filed by the district is "procedurally improper, prejudicial, and seeks to justify the proposed plan almost exclusively on policy grounds."

"The district fails to add its own brief to address the legal shortcomings of its magnet programs already recognized by the court in its March 28, 2012, opinion," said Adams. "Dr. Rossell's report constitutes the district’s only response to the United States’ clear legal arguments challenging the district’s proposal to repeat a failed magnet school approach."

Adams also pointed out that the district was directed to submit a desegregation plan to the United States for its review by May 15, 2012.

"The order further specified that the United States, if unable to resolve disagreements with the district within 30 days, would file objections to the proposed plan within an additional 20 days," said Adams. "The United States promptly notified the district of its objections to the plan."

The school district then requested that the United States delay filing objections until after the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year, by which time it would provide further data and information in support of its plan.

"Unfortunately, the only additional information ultimately produced by the district in purported support of its plan was a single page of data listing enrollment statistics for certain courses at East Side High School open to Cleveland High School students, as well as a one-paragraph e-mail from the district’s counsel providing follow-up information on that data," Adams added.

Still the DOJ filed its objections and on Sept. 12 the school district asked the court for additional time to confer and file its response to the objections.

"In the motion, the district represented to the court that it would use the additional time to 'continue to confer with the United States about its objections to the district’s plan,' and, in the event the parties failed to agree on a plan, to file a response to the United States’ objections," she continued.

"Except for a short telephone call with the district's counsel, during which the district’s counsel repeated that the district wished to confer further on its plan, the district never initiated any such follow-up conversations with the United States," Adams said. "Instead, it evidently used its newly-allotted time to ask Dr. Rossell, yet again, to prepare another supplemental report."

Jacks, Adams & Norquist P.A. of Cleveland and Adams and Reese P.A. of Ridgeland are listed as attorneys for the Cleveland School District.

All attempts to contact Cleveland School District Attorney Jamie Jacks were unsuccessful.

In her filed response, Adams boldly said that the court should reject Cleveland's response because "it is merely an untimely expert report offering little new information."

"In sum, the district’s response badly misses the mark, and offers little to suggest that its 'more of the same' approach in the proposed plan will work," Adams concluded. "For these reasons the United States respectfully requests that the court reject the portion of the proposed plan addressing the integration of East Side and D.M. Smith, and either order, or direct the district to devise, a new plan that ensures East Side and D.M. Smith will be fully integrated by the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year."

The Bolivar Commercial will have more on this case when the court's decision is made available.